Deciding to take part in a clinical trial

This page explains things to think about when deciding whether to take part in a clinical trial, and what will happen if you do decide to take part.

Your doctor or nurse may tell you about a trial for pancreatic cancer that might be suitable for you. Or you might find out about a trial yourself, for example through our Trial Finder. Talk it through with your doctor to find out if it is suitable for you and whether you are interested in taking part.

You will be given detailed information about the trial, including written information. Make sure you ask about anything you don’t understand, so that you have all the information you need and know exactly what is involved before deciding to take part.

Our video explains more about deciding to take part in a clinical trial

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


You might find it helps to make a list of everything you want to ask when you see your trial doctor or nurse. You could include the following questions.

  • Are there any clinical trials that are suitable for me?
  • What does the trial involve?
  • What tests or treatment will I have and how often?
  • How long will the trial last?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages for me?
  • Are there any potential side effects?
  • Who can I talk to if I have any questions about the trial?
  • What support is available for me during the trial?
  • If the trial involves extra hospital visits, will my travel expenses be covered?
  • Can I leave the trial at any time if I change my mind?
  • How can I get referred for a trial that is not open at my hospital?
  • If I take part in the trial, will it delay me starting treatment?
  • How can I find out about the results of the trial?
  • What treatment will I receive if I choose not to take part in the trial?

What happens if I do decide to take part in a trial?

If you are offered a suitable trial, the doctors and nurses in the research team will explain:

  • the purpose of the trial
  • the advantages and disadvantages
  • what is involved
  • that you can leave the trial at any time.

You will be given detailed written information about the trial. You will also be given the name of a research nurse who you can speak to about any questions you have. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to ask the research team questions and discuss what’s involved.

If you do decide to take part, you will be asked to sign a consent form saying that you understand what is involved and agree to take part. This is called giving ‘informed consent’. You will be given a copy of the information and the signed consent form to keep. These include details about what was discussed with you, and how the research team will keep your medical records private.

Our video explains what will happen if you do decide to take part in a clinical trial

You will be given as much time as you need to decide whether to take part in the trial. You should have at least 24 hours between being invited to take part and signing the consent form. This is to give you plenty of time to think about the trial and talk to other people, including your family and GP if you wish to. Even after you sign the consent form, you can still leave the trial at any time.

You will be given a phone number to contact at any time, as well as in an emergency, such as if you feel unwell or are admitted to hospital for any reason.

Screening tests

To check you are suitable to take part in a trial, you may need to have some tests, sometimes called screening tests. They will be explained in the information you are given.

Screening tests may include:

  • blood and urine tests
  • scans, which produce pictures of the inside of your body
  • biopsies, which take tissue samples
  • other tests, such as tests on your heart or eyes, if there’s a risk that the new treatment could affect them
  • a pregnancy test.

These tests will not be done unless you have signed the consent form, because they form part of the research study. It may take some time to complete them and get all the results. Speak to the research team and your doctor about these tests and how long they take, so that you know exactly what is involved.

The screening tests may find something that means you don’t meet the trial entry criteria after all. It can be very disappointing and frustrating if the screening tests show that you aren’t suitable for the trial. You will still be given the best treatment and care available outside the trial. Speak to your doctor or nurse about your treatment options.

Find out more about taking part in clinical trials

Visit out Trial Finder to find pancreatic cancer trials in the UK

Published July 2018

Review date July 2021